California has struggled for years to reduce the population in its overburdened prisons, but a proposal that could have forced as many as 20,000 inmates who are illegal immigrants to serve their sentences in their home countries has faltered over concerns it would be viewed as anti-immigrant, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The main objections to the proposal include concern that the prisoners would serve shorter sentences at home, and that they might be denied due process in being transferred.
State Sen. Martha Escutia (D-Whittier), an Hispanic and a strong supporter of immigrant rights, said she believed that the overpopulation problems in the state prisons were too pressing to ignore the idea. She reasoned that because the undocumented inmates are generally deported after they have served their sentences, at the expense of California taxpayers, why wait? Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said that perhaps only one thing could break the resistance once and for all. “You know what could alter this?” he asked. “A crisis in the prisons. I’m afraid to say it, but with the situation in the prisons, it’s not if, it’s when.”